My last few weeks in Korea were wonderful . . . quality time spent with family and friends. I was still very busy, but the insanity of mid-August was gone, thank goodness. Over the first weekend in September, I went down to Suji to visit my family. I made my first trip to a 찜질방 (jimjilbang)! Although upon entering the jimjilbang, I realized that I’d essentially already had a jimjilbang experience when I went to Olympus Spa in Lynnwood, WA last fall. (See my November 13, 2005 post–“Nude Girlfriend Bonding.” I can’t figure out how to link to archived posts. Yet another reason to switch to WordPress.) Basically, a jimjilbang is a large spa with several rooms. You can bathe in various pools, get a massage, sweat it out in dry or wet saunas, watch movies, and eat yummy Korean food. It was a strange experience showering with some of the female members of my family (my two sisters, grandmother, aunt, and cousin), but it was a pleasant alternative to the usual non-verbal activities we engage in together (eating, watching DVDs, eating).
Exterior of the 찜질방 in 수지.
I just finished uploading photos from my last week onto Flickr . . . . It was a great weekend. Friday: dinner at Le Petit Paris (a French restaurant in 신촌 owned and operated by two French Korean Adoptees), drinks at Ho Bar (no, it’s not like Hooters. Just a poorly-named drinking establishment.), and then dancing at both QVo (hip-hop) and M2 (techno). Actually, I think T.T.Y. and I were the only ones who did both clubs (the others wisely stuck to just QVo). Fitting, since only he and I were excited about running back and forth that evening. I’ll miss you, T.T.Y., you crazy Dane! Please be good to S., she’s a nice girl. 🙂 And update your blog, mister, if you ever read this.
Saturday ended up being an exact replica of my going-away bash a year ago . . . . samgyeopsal for dinner, drinks at The Lounge, dancing at S-Club. Cheesy as it may sound, The Lounge used to be like the Korean adoptee “Cheers” in Seoul (where everybody knows your name, blahblahblah), but people stopped going there this year. The owner ended up selling the bar, however, and Saturday turned out to be not only my last night but The Lounge’s last night, too. During its two years of existence, Santoki et al. provided much of The Lounge’s business. It’s like the end of an era this summer, because not only did The Lounge shut its doors, but my hairdresser at Juno Hair in Ewha is moving to Australia!!! 😦 I’ve been going to see her since my first trip to Korea in 2001. Ah, B. & N.–what are we going to do??
Half of our group on Saturday night.
When I left Korea in 2005, I was a blubbery mess the week prior to leaving and the months following my exit. This time was significantly less dramatic, because I was only there this time for three months, and I’m getting used to going back and forth (Seattle . . . Seoul . . . Seattle . . .). However, as I was hugging people goodbye at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning before heading back to KoRoot to nap/pack, I did get a little misty. The solidarity I feel with my adoptee friends in Seoul (both old and new friends) is unlike anything else. Other adoptee events (culture camps, mini-gatherings, etc.) come close to replicating the Seoul solidarity, but it’s different. There is something about living and working in the motherland with people who not only share your experience but also share a passion for exploring Korean culture and adoptee culture that creates something . . . special. I miss it already.
(Want to write a KoRoot-related post sometime in the next few weeks. KoRoot: another intrinsic part of the Seoul experience for me.)
I feel a bit at a loss to fully describe what this summer meant to me. For me, it was not about a Korea-immersion, it was a Korean-adoptee-immersion. Working at G.O.A.’L, living at KoRoot . . . . The Korean adoptee community was everything to me this summer: work life, home life, social life. For as intense as that may sound, there were only a handful of moments this summer where I felt like the adoptee-ness was too much. I keep wondering if the day will come when I “burn out” on adoptees. Day hasn’t come yet.
I do, however, need a break from Korea. I love Korea (especially its films . . . definitely the coolest, hippest part of Korean culture. Aside from the SJ B-Boys–ow!!), but Korea also makes me tired. At this point, I feel that I will never become fluent in the language unless 1) I live for two years in a city outside Seoul; 2) I live with my Korean relatives; 3) I take an intensive language course in Seoul where I study Korean 5 hours/day. All of these options would mean that I would have to spend less time with adoptees and more time with Korean-Koreans, and for me, the trade-off is not worth it. I do want to be able to more fully communicate with my family, but I don’t wish to assimilate into Korean society. I still plan on taking 2nd-year Korean at the UW this year, but I’m going to stop feeling guilty about not speaking perfect Korean. Easier said than done!
So I’m completely not on a good sleeping schedule. After I arrived on Sunday, I slept for 16 hours straight. Last night, I only slept for 4 hours. My eyes popped open at 8 a.m. and I could not force myself back to unconsciousness. It is now almost 2:30 a.m., and I’m wide awake, due to a mid-afternoon nap. Who knows what going to Kansas City will do for me . . . .
Yup, going to Kansas City for a week: September 14-20. Time to visit all of my pregnant friends. 🙂 Classes do not start until September 27th. So I will have lots of time to unpack in my new apartment I share with my Evans classmate. Although I’m taking my sweet time . . . having lots of unstructured time always means strange schedules for me.
Major accomplishments today:
1. Called SoniCare to request a new battery charger (what a rip-off of a toothbrush).
2. Drove all over Shoreline searching for a Korean-style laundry rack, but ended up finding one at Fred Meyer.
3. Did four loads of laundry at a laundromat next to our new apt.
4. Uploaded my pics.
Not bad . . . . still searching for my copy of American Knees, however, in my overflowing suitcase. 😉
So I’m feeling surprisingly normal. Nice to spend September off of work, off of school, in my various homes—서울 (Seoul), Seattle, Kansas City.
With my uncle and his wife. (While sitting with them and and my sisters at the airport, I had one of those moments where I realized, “Hey. They’re Korean. I’m Korean. We match. Woah.” Gotta get ready for Kansas City re-entry…..)